Last week we brought you guys the announcement from New York for the highly anticipated Nike SB Koston II, the follow up to the hugely successful Koston I which has been considered by many as already a classic. A few days afterwards I got to sit down with Eric Koston and designer Sean Carboy to dive a little further into Nike SB’s next big release. It was great to get the two together as they broke down the reasoning and logic behind the Koston II and its upgrades from the previous model.
Vinny: When did you guys finish designing the shoe then?
Eric Koston: We didn’t…we’re still going!
V: Is it really still going?!
E: No, no…I feel like there’s…shoes just never end. Because even when we finish the one, it just always continues. It’s just like any piece of art: it’s never finished, you’re always thinking, if you finish a piece of work, and then you’re always looking at what you could’ve done better.
V: And there’s always new materials, right?
E: Yeah, and there’s always other things that you can do …even though you’ve finished something, you always wanna make it better. Design-wise or performance-wise…my interests change or I like variety. And even though I have a signature shoe, I wanna try every shoe, I was looking at some SB Dunks recently, I saw someone standing in Dunks, and I was like, “Oh I wanna skate in Dunks again!”
Sean Carboy: Yeah!
E: Yeah, I always wanted to. They look cool, I saw somebody skating by and they looked sick with certain colour-blocking, it just reminded me of what I thought of Dunks or Stefan shoes are awesome to skate with, the Bruin too…
V: You said you like variety, and you see a lot of Air Max 95 sort of influences in your early issues, and a lot of sort of big soles in those earlier Koston shoes on eS right? Was it changing in the way you were skateboarding or the changing in the way that you wanted to feel your board that brought that thinner sole…
E: Lower profile. Uh, yeah, you started to realise those shoes were not good to skate in. But we wanted them to look cool. Everything was pretty athletic: the bulky, and the bells and whistles and basketball trainer-inspired type shoes…those were the shoes I was chilling in, not skating in, so I used those as my inspiration. I wanted it to look like the shoe I chilled in, but make it a skate shoe, you know.
But you kinda sacrifice that performance in a lot of those shoes because you wanted it to look sick and fit with your big baggy, nylon pants and jersey or something you’re wearing, you know? But, that was the shit we were into, or at least I was, you know and a lot of skate shoes did go in that direction and it got out of control.
And yeah, you can’t feel anything…even back then you realised you went back to the older cup soles, and those suede shoes with the cup sole, those things always worked and so we knew that it would work fine and you…when you went back to that, like, “what do they do with this all this stuff for? Why do they need all that shit?”
S: I think it’s kinda funny, in the early ’90s a lot of shoes were actually very similar to others built now, they’re very minimal, stripped down and then when skateboarding kinda started maturing, getting a little older, there was a change in philosophy, you know, protecting your ankle, protecting your foot.
We talked about how kids used to wear Converse One Stars, they used to put an extra tongue there so when the board came down they wouldn’t hurt their foot. So, companies would see that and they’re like, “Oh, we need to make shoes protective”, and so it’s kinda like the analogy of a soccer mum right? You put more sock. Some skate parks in the east coast you have to wear pads because you don’t want anyone getting hurt.
But then, as we’ve been working together for so long, [we realized] if we protect the foot too much, just like pads, you will actually hurt yourself more. It was more about stripping it down. If you could make yourself skate better, use less, make it actually flex, you know what I mean?
And we learn a lot from running, say the Nike Frees: they stripped everything down, they had the same problem. The Air Max, your heel’s so far off the ground, and then, they started noticing it, they actually made it flex and you start strengthening your foot. And it’s taking those…just learning from the old, you know, and embracing it and kinda adapting it for what Eric needs or the other guys need.
V: Well I found after that whole, big sort of shoes thing, there was a reaction and it kinda went back to the barebones, Vans, the Half-Cabs and all that and it’s kinda reached a point where there’s a good medium between technical and minimal at the same time. Do you think that Nike has managed to find a good middle ground when it came to that sort of style?
E: Well they have, they have all the resources to make that. That’s what I always thought before I even got on Nike.
S: I think another problem is that a lot of companies make their shoes more technical looking than they really are. What we wanna do is make this shoe an extension of his foot and focus on simple design, you know, form-fitting, like the first one was one-piece. Eric wanted to strip it down, it’s like, “what do I only need?”
E: Yeah, I just wanted the bare minimum, you know. And so, what was necessary and what wasn’t. But to make it work so it is like an extension of my foot. It’s like soccer too, or football, you gotta control the ball with your foot, same with the skateboard. You have to control the board with your foot, so you have to have a certain amount of flexibility and a certain amount of support, so you try to have those meet in the right spot, so that it performs properly. You don’t sacrifice one for the other, but have them both work together.
V: And with the Koston I, there was only the Lunarlon insole and now Lunarlon sole is that right? Is that why you guys did that? Was it to not look technical on the outside? And why did you bring it into the second one this time?
S: He didn’t want any bellows on the side.
E: I did want a cup sole too. That’s something that has lasted, it’s withstood the test of time. It’s been the style of shoe we’ve skated in since the mid-80s, but how do you modify that to make it perform better? It doesn’t mean “you just make a rubber cup sole, it’s gonna be great.” We did make it thinner so it’s more flexible and then that’s where the Lunar sock liner came into play, it’s just having something that you can drop in there and be able to make the cup sole flexible enough so that it can almost perform like Vulcanized shoe where people really love having that sort of thin feel and flexibility, but having protection.
S: I remember that, that was the design challenge, he’s like “I want it to be as grippy and flexible as a vulcanised, how can you make a cup sole do that?” and that, you know, combining the midsole and the sock lining in one unit allows you to have a really flexible shoe, you can actually eliminate some layers and… introducing a cup sole to a construction like that was for us, even at Nike, it was like, “it looks kind of different you know”, because usually with the construction, like Chuck Taylors they have that concealed construction they do vulcanize. So for us, that’s why we took a simpler approach cos we knew if screwed it up; we made it too over, that it scared people. But if we just you know, took the styling of his aesthetic and what works for Eric, we knew that it would work really well, you know, with the colourways that we did, with how it fits his foot. I feel like the I is a very timeless shoe and I think the II is just the evolution of that.
E: What we did is that we evolved the sock liner to be more anatomically contoured to support the foot better, made it a little bit firmer so it’d more responsive and the other one was a little bit softer.
S: I mean, there’s so many great things…I’m really excited about the II. I mean the tread is way better, it’s like…you know you think about the iPhone right? And you got 3-4 it’s that…they looks so similar but it’s in the details.
V: I wanna touch on one last thing, you’ve worked with éS which is a very core skateboarding company…you’re a part-owner of Lakai? So you’ve worked with a lot of shoe companies in the past, how was working with Nike different to working with a core skateboarding shoe brand?
E: Oh it’s…it’s crazy. It’s completely different, I hate to say it, but it’s so much better because of what…not only in the design aspect and the resources…cos I’ve copied so many Nike shoes, you know, I tried to mimic them as close as possible and using the best those companies, éS and Lakai could do. But we couldn’t totally execute it…it was getting as good as I could get it, but it wasn’t quite there. But with Nike, I get to use all those bits and pieces that I’ve always wanted to use, and I have access to a lot of great technology and a lot of, basically cutting-edge shit, that like, it’s cool, you know. And I can really, truly, feel like I can innovate. So there’s that, but not only that, they actually function; I guess from start to finish, even the marketing side of things it’s above and beyond, it’s crazy. I felt like, people say I drank the Kool-Aid but…